Mermaids was once, not long ago, the darling of the charity world: Starbucks sold Mermaids-branded cookies and famous faces including Emma Watson queued up to support the transgender organisation. But 2022 was the year Mermaids hit the rocks. The Charity Commission launched an inquiry into Mermaids last month after identifying concerns about its management. The charity which, a few years ago, could do no wrong in the eyes of corporations and policy makers faces an uncertain future. Despite what Mermaid’s dwindling band of supporters might say, this is good news.
Homosexuality was legalised in England and Wales 55 years ago. The Sexual Offences Act 1967 permitted homosexual acts between two consenting adults over the age of 21. Arguably that – and subsequent liberalisations – really only benefited men; sex acts between women were never criminalised.
But what does it mean to be a lesbian in 2022? This week* Kate Harris – a lesbian and co-founder of the charity LGB Alliance – broke down in court under cross-examination from a male barrister. Michael Gibbon KC, counsel for the charity Mermaids, put it to her that ‘lesbians can include someone who is a woman as a result of gender reassignment.’
Mermaids is one of Britain’s most controversial trans charities, yet its overarching aim is hard to fault. The organisation says it wants ‘to create a world where gender diverse children and young people can be themselves and thrive’. To that end, its goal is ‘to relieve the mental and emotional stress’ of transgender kids. Unfortunately that laudable objective is hard to square with what it tells vulnerable children who identify as transgender.
‘I think I might be transgender!’ How should schools react to such revelations? By the time they find out, the child may already be convinced that their identity lies on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Probably with its own multi-coloured flag.
Mermaids is arguably the most influential charity focusing on transgender rights in the UK. It claims to have been supporting transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse children, young people, and their families since 1995, and has been at the forefront of key policy changes affecting transgender people in this country. Today, however, the charity is distinctly evangelistic.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s push for recording lessons is misplaced – it would be better to tackle the lobby groups that are driving absurd, divisive and dangerous policies into our schools.
Lesbian and gay rights are still not secure in the UK. This week the LGB Alliance – a group used to being smeared and misrepresented – came under further attack. With astonishing impudence, the LGBT+ Consortium, Gendered Intelligence, the LGBT Foundation, TransActual, and the Good Law Project ganged up with Mermaids UK in a staggering appeal to strip the LGB Alliance of its charitable status.
Robert Webb is best known for making people laugh, but he conducted himself with poise and grace when he was ambushed by American podcast host Jesse Thorn. Thorn had invited Webb and long-time collaborator David Mitchell to talk about their latest show, and their experiences performing together as a double act over the years. But the programme ended in yet another episode of the transgender inquisition.
We welcome the decision by the Scout Association to review its transgender policy (News, last week). Previous guidance, developed in partnership with the transgender lobbying group Mermaids, undermined safeguarding by promising “complete confidentiality”; promoted the idea that children as young as two can be identified as having a “true gender” that does not match their sex; and normalised the practice of teenage girls binding their breasts.
As professionals, academics, teachers and parents, we are anxious about the 25-fold increase in referrals of children to the NHS gender identity development service since 2009.